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🎬 "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."

🎬 "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
By Eric Johnson • Issue #81 • View online

🐀 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is such a dramatic step up from the previous two Harry Potter films that I can’t think of a comparable example from any other franchise. Anyone?
Anyway, Azkaban matches the deepening maturity of the books perfectly, and director Alfonso Cuarón shoots Hogwarts with a cinematic eye that emphasizes its dark side without robbing it of its charms. All the child actors are noticeably better than they were in the previous movies, and the new additions to the cast — Gary Oldman as Sirius Black and David Thewlis as Remus Lupin — are both excellent.
The nightmarish dementors are perfectly realized, and in case there is somehow someone reading this who hasn’t read the book or seen the movie, I’ll keep this vague: the big final sequence here surpasses the book’s, a claim this or any movie series can rarely make. 
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Official Trailer #1 - (2004) HD
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Official Trailer #1 - (2004) HD
I watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on Blu-Ray, but it’s currently streaming on HBO Max and USA Network.
🚢 Greyhound
I’m conflicted about Greyhound because it does so many things right — it’s a brisk war movie with appropriately tense action scenes, good acting, and a very good score.
However, even though it held my unwavering attention, it never rose to the level of “I’ve never seen that before” or “I didn’t see that coming.” Writer/star Tom Hanks gives us only one scene of backstory establishing his character, a WWII Navy Captain crossing the Atlantic for the first time, which I gather is a plus for some viewers.
Personally, I wish we had more time to unpack what makes Hanks’ character tick and how the rest of the people on his ship are processing the battles, which are fatiguing for them and the audience, too.
GREYHOUND - Official Trailer (HD) | Apple TV+
GREYHOUND - Official Trailer (HD) | Apple TV+
Greyhound is currently streaming on Apple TV+.
🏜 Palm Springs
Palm Springs is way, way better and weirder than I expected it to be.
My topline review is that Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti are perfectly cast and you should go watch this film on Hulu without reading anything more. Seriously, don’t even watch the trailer I’ve embedded below — it’s good, and you’ll have a better time if you go in knowing less.
However, I know that’s not good enough for some folks, so here are some vague plot details: The premise (which is revealed early on, but this is your last chance to turn back) is that Samberg is living the same day over and over again, much like his SNL forefather Bill Murray.
However, this is a time loop movie with a fresh take on the Groundhog Day formula, and I really appreciated the myriad ways the movie second-guesses what you think will happen next. And I LOVED the chemistry between the two leads, who need to do more together ASAP.
Palm Springs - Trailer (Official) • A Hulu Original Film
Palm Springs - Trailer (Official) • A Hulu Original Film
Palm Springs is currently streaming on Hulu.
✍️ Wordplay
Wordplay is a low-budget documentary and it looks like a low-budget documentary, but fortunately, it draws its characters so well that the visuals don’t matter.
Here, the characters are crossword puzzle enthusiasts, ranging from creators like the New York Times’ Will Shortz to players at the annual competition in Stamford, Connecticut. The main story is about the buildup to one year’s tournament, but it’s intercut with celebrities like Jon Stewart talking about their love of crosswords, and a primer in how good puzzles are made, as explained by beloved constructor Merl Reagle.
The editing is clever, the interviews are offbeat and funny, and the competition at the end is genuinely tense. What’s an 11-letter word for positively suggested?
Wordplay Trailer (2006)
Wordplay Trailer (2006)
I watched Wordplay on DVD, and it’s not currently streaming anywhere, but you can rent or buy it on Amazon, Google/YouTube, and Apple TV+.
⏳ The Old Guard
The Old Guard is my favorite type of action movie because it takes the time to stop and force the characters (and the audience) to reckon with the moral/psychological/ethical implications of what they’re doing.
It’s excellently cast, led by Charlize Theron as “Andy,” the commander of a quasi-immortal paramilitary team that has been together for hundreds of years. Kiki Layne plays a US Marine who discovers that she, too, has their healing powers, and joins the group at the worst possible time — as they’re being hunted by a cartoonishly evil pharma executive, who wants to harvest their blood for his own ends.
The violence is occasionally intense, but never gratuitous, and the fight choreography is quite good. I only wish that I had been able to see The Old Guard in a theater for the audience reactions, but c'est la vie. Sequel when?
The Old Guard | Official Trailer | Netflix
The Old Guard | Official Trailer | Netflix
The Old Guard is currently streaming on Netflix.
👟 Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is just the loveliest of documentaries.
Tracing the TV career of Fred Rogers, the host of the long-running children’s program Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, it draws beautifully from the hundreds of hours of footage of him to show all the facets of his interests and the lives he changed.
If you’re already familiar with his outsized presence in pop culture, you won’t necessarily learn a lot of new information here, but the story is delivered so well that even moments like his famous Congressional testimony in support of PBS plays as uncertain. Director Morgan Neville, who also made the excellent 20 Feet From Stardom, has a gift for finding the real stories buried in our nostalgia.
At every juncture in his career, the documentary lays bare all the things he was doing “wrong” — and why he was, in fact, so very right almost all of the time.
WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? - Official Trailer [HD] - In Select Theaters June 8
WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? - Official Trailer [HD] - In Select Theaters June 8
I watched Won’t You Be My Neighbor? on Blu-Ray, but it’s currently streaming on DirecTV.
🚦 A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a movie about Mr. Rogers that’s not really about Mr. Rogers, which is probably why it succeeds.
Instead, it’s about how Rogers changed the life of one person, a journalist sent to profile him for Esquire, played by Matthew Rhys; I absolutely love the way director Marielle Heller frames this story, and continue to be impressed on this second viewing by Tom Hanks’ performance. Here’s what I wrote upon my first viewing last year:
You have probably heard that Tom Hanks plays Rogers here, a fact I initially greeted with some mixed feelings; I have seen a lot of Tom Hanks movies, so I know his face and voice better than I ever knew the real Rogers. And yet, I was stunned by the degree to which Hanks disappeared into the role, something he never quite did in Sully or The Post. I also loved some of the risky choices director Marielle Heller made, the fun surprises of which I won’t reveal here. The script is unsubtle at times, leaning hagiographic while raising — but choosing not to answer — some very good questions about the dark side of Rogers’ reputation as a “living saint.”
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD - Official Trailer (HD)
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD - Official Trailer (HD)
I watched A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood on DVD, but it’s currently streaming on Starz and DirecTV.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Eric Johnson

I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

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